A Chinese Buddha statue with the mummified body of a Buddhist monk
Fuzhou - XINHUA
Chinese relic experts have determined a 1,000-year-old Buddha statue containing a mummified monk, which is now in possession of a Dutch private collector, is a relic stolen from an east China village in 1995.
The Cultural Relic Bureau in east China's Fujian Province said on Sunday that judging from research and media reports, experts have confirmed that the statue on show in Hungarian Natural History Museum was a relic stolen from Yangchun Village in Fujian in 1995.
The bureau will continue the relic investigation in the village and search for more information while reporting to the national cultural authorities in order to identify and trace the stolen relic in compliance with normal procedures, said a bureau spokesman.
The statue was on a "Mummy World" exhibition at the Hungarian Natural History Museum that opened in October last year and was originally scheduled to be on display until May 17, but was pulled from the exhibition on Friday as the museum said "the Dutch owner withdrew the statue without giving any reason."
Villagers in Yangchun burst into tears while other lit fireworks after seeing the statue via Chinese TV news earlier this month.
The bureau immediately dispatched experts to the village to investigate the issue. Through the research, experts found a large amount of photos, relics and historical records including a pedigree suggesting the mummy was a a former ancestor (or Zushi in Chinese) of the local clan.
The statue, formerly housed in the village temple, was stolen in 1995. It wore a hat and clothes when sitting in the temple, and was worshiped as an ancestor.
According to Yangchun archives, the Buddha, named Zhanggong Zushi, was a local man who became a monk in his 20s and won fame for helping people treat disease and spread Buddhist belief. When he died at the age of 37, his body was mummified and local people made a statue with the mummy inside at around the time in China's Song Dynasty (960-1279). The statue has been worshipped in the village temple ever since.
In the temple, local people still preserve the statue's hat and clothes and other affiliated relics.